Torn between life and death

By Spencer D Gear

Why is it that many of us will do many things to live longer but others want to end life now?

We go on diets to reduce the strain on our hearts and the cholesterol from the fatty foods that we eat.

A recent study in the USA found that if people want to be healthy and live longer, they should consume less red and processed meat.[1]

The research of half a million American middle-aged and elderly people who consumed four ounces of red meat a day (an amount equivalent to a small hamburger), found that there was a 30% higher chance that they would die in the next 10 years.

Most of these would die of heart disease and cancer. The risk was increased through eating sausage, cold meats and other processed meats.

But this desire to try to avoid death, is also seen in some treatments of cancer. In spite of severe side effects of chemotherapy, such as fever, chills & sweats, abnormal bleeding, severe vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, patients want to live longer to spend more time with their relatives and friends.

Why is it that we have this love of life and need to prolong the date of death? Could it be connected with our culture’s deep fear of death?

“I want to be with my loved ones who have gone before, but I’m not sure about that,” are among the comments I hear.

For others, life has become a burden and ending life sooner than later sounds like a good release. The euthanasia movement in Australia, Europe and the USA is pushing this line. “To die with dignity” sounds like a reasonable and responsible way of thinking until one sees how euthanasia is happening in countries such as Holland.

The recent series of articles in The Times (UK) demonstrates this continuing push for euthanasia and assisted suicide.[2] The Dutch experience shows that this push will not be limited to the terminally ill. After a three year inquiry, the Dutch Medical Association (as reported in the British Medical Journal) wants more freedom to kill. The report stated that “doctors can help patients who ask for help to die even though they may not be ill but ‘suffering through living.'”[3]

Some experience this ambivalence: Extend life as much as possible but end life if it becomes unbearable.

This is where the Easter message of the resurrected Christ has particular application. We do not have to guess about what happens at death. Here there is an opportunity of knowing why life must end and what lies beyond the grave. The physical resurrection of all human beings after death is firmly grounded in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

Jesus Christ himself affirms this. After raising a man from the dead, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”[4]

He demonstrated the reality of this through his own resurrection from the dead, which was a turning point in human history.

Because of Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead, there is a solid biblical, theological and historical basis for the belief that the souls of both believers and unbelievers survive death and will be raised again.

There is no reason for the believers in Christ to fear death as they are eternally redeemed. Are those who push for euthanasia certain of the destiny of those for whom they push for “death with dignity”?


[1] Rob Stein, The Washington Post, 24 March 2009, “Daily red meat raises chances of dying early,” available from: [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[2] A. C. Grayling, The Times (UK), 31 March 2009, “Allowing people to arrange their death is a simple act of kindness”, available from: Timesonline at: [Accessed 2 January 2010]. See other euthanasia & assisted suicide stories linked to this article.

[3] Tony Sheldon, British Medical Journal News roundup, Extract, 18 January 2005, “Dutch euthanasia law should apply to patients ‘suffering through living’ report says,” available from: [Accessed 2 January 2010]. Sheldon’s full article may be viewed at: [2 January 2010]. I was alerted to this information by Weblog: Christianity Today, “Dutch doctors want to kill the healthy,” 13 March 2006, available from: [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[4] John 11:25-26.

Copyright ยฉ 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2016.